When Vice President Mike Pence gives speeches at graduation ceremonies, it’s almost always at religious or military institutions, but even places such as those aren’t entirely safe spaces for Pence. According to The Washington Post, students at an evangelical college in Indiana are protesting the VP’s scheduled commencement speech this coming May 18.
Taylor University president Paul Lowell Haines had nothing but praise for Pence, saying he’s “been a good friend to the University over many years,” adding that he’s a “Christian brother whose life and values have exemplified what we strive to instill in our graduates.” But not everyone at his school agrees.
As of this Thursday, a Change.org petition calling for Pence’s speaking engagement to be canceled has garnered almost 6,000 signatures.
According to the petition’s description, the school is giving Pence “a coveted platform for his political views,” which in turn “makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”
The Washington Post reports that the backlash to Pence’s planned speech has the right wing slightly stunned. In a post to Facebook this Tuesday, Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, wondered what the dissenting students were “smoking.”
“This reminds me of Paul’s words, ‘You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?'” Graham wrote, adding that there “couldn’t be a better, more qualified, more inspirational speaker for graduates to hear from or a better example for them to follow in life.”
At the bottom of the petition, signatories can leave notes explaining their reasons for signing.
“I’m a husband of a Taylor alum and suggest that if Taylor is looking for [an Indiana native] Christian politician for the commencement they might consider inviting Pete Buttigieg,” one signer wrote.
“The fact that Taylor would invite Pence as a speaker honestly kills me a little bit. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for lgbt students to have to see this man’s harmful bulls–t be honored on the Taylor stage,” wrote another. “Really disgusting stuff, Taylor. Really ashamed to be an alum right now.”
According to signatory Tim Kneuss, when you “embrace diversity, you embrace God.”
“The Christian church, of which Taylor is proud to be a part, exists to create disciples of Jesus Christ who touch and inspire people through an open and diverse community,” Kneuss wrote. “All people, regardless of age, sex, race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status or ability should be fully welcomed. I believe when you embrace diversity, you embrace God.”
“Commencement speakers set a tone for us to strive to achieve,” Kneuss added. “The choice to make this speaker’s message the tone of Taylor is truly discordant.”
A competing petition in support of Pence has almost 3,000 signatures as of this writing. The Post reports that Taylor faculty voted 61 to 49 to condemn the school’s invitation of Pence.
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